Fire Sparked by Electric Scooter Battery Kills Woman and Child in Harlem

A fire in a Harlem apartment early Wednesday sparked by the lithium-ion battery on an electric scooter killed a 5-year-old girl and a 36-year-old woman, and left the child’s father in critical condition, the police and fire officials said.

Firefighters responded just after 2:30 a.m. to a fire that broke out in a sixth-floor apartment in the Jackie Robinson Houses, owned and managed by New York City Housing Authority. The fire was contained to one apartment and brought under control about an hour later. One other person was seriously injured, and a firefighter and at least one other person had minor injuries.

A charred scooter sat outside the building on Wednesday. Former co-workers of the man who was critically injured said it belonged to him. They described him as fun-loving and said he had previously worked for the Parks Department. His name, and that of his daughter and the woman, who neighbors said was his girlfriend, were not immediately released.

E-bikes and scooters have been implicated in numerous fires in recent months, leading the New York City Housing Authority to propose banning them from its buildings entirely. Experts say the problems are often linked to aging, damaged or malfunctioning batteries and charging devices. The Fire Department has repeatedly warned of the dangers of lithium-ion batteries.

The charred scooter sat outside the Harlem building where the fire occurred on Wednesday.Credit…Dakota Santiago for The New York Times

Another fire on Monday on Townsend Avenue in the Bronx was also sparked by lithium-ion batteries from e-bikes or scooters, the marshals said.

On Wednesday in Harlem, the walls in the hallway near the apartment were blackened, and the smell of smoke lingered. A woman who lives on the fifth floor said she had escaped with her children, including a 3-month-old.

“It’s scary,” she said. “It’s a tragedy that it happened, a little girl’s life was lost.”

Alain Delaquérière contributed research.

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